Hiding out in a quiet Northeast neighborhood, Dance Place is one of the few theaters that consistently presents the latest in local, cutting-edge dance talent. Founded by Carla Perlo in 1980, the compact black-box performance space (which doubles as a dance studio by day) hosts an eclectic array of performances nearly every week of the year.
Annual presentations of the resident dance companies -- Carla & Company, Deborah Riley and Coyaba Dance Theater -- forms the backbone of programming. Choreography with an ethnic bent, youth ensembles and performance art fill out the rest of the schedule. The small studio was the site of notorious shock-artist Karen Finley's first D.C. performance, and it was also where Blue Man Group gave its last nonprofit performance before moving to the lucrative New York market and beyond.
No red carpets or shimmering chandeliers decorate the simple, functional lobby of the theater, whose walls display the work of local artists. Seating is general admission, with all 170 padded folding chairs on risers offering open sightlines to the stage. During intermission, patrons can buy light refreshments or pick up loads of information on various cultural events from a table in the lobby. The audiences cut across age and color lines; dress is casual; talk is intense. All of the employees you'll see are dancers or choreographers, too.
Dance Place also services the community. It has brought in over 200,000 underprivileged schoolchildren to watch performances and participate in summer camps that teach them about dance and life skills.
As part of its role as a community arts center, Dance Place offers a full schedule of classes in modern and ethnic dance, many of them accompanied by live music. If you wake up one morning and can't tame those happy feet, you can still sign up for a class a few hours in advance.
-- Nicole Lewis